I was led to this book by a review I first found through CBR III, although I can’t seem to find the review (and the ensuing discussion in comments) – I am certain it was a review of Melissa Gilbert’s biography. So, thank you, CBR III participant, for the recommendation!
For those who are not familiar with the series, Alison Arngrim played Nellie Oleson on the Little House on the Prairie television program. Nellie was, for most of the series, an unrepentant bitch, the likes of which is rarely seen on family-oriented television. Arngrim has taken a lot of grief over the years from people who can’t seem to differentiate her from the character (with the notable exception of the French, who love Nellie above all characters). While as a young girl and woman, this was very hard to deal with, as an adult she has used the notoriety to advance her charitable causes.
Arngrim is very frank in this book, dealing pretty honestly with her arms length bringing up by her parents, as well as with her sexual abuse at the hands of her brother. (Her brother is actor Stefan Arngrim, who recently played the store owner with the typewriter in the back room on Fringe – I wonder about how often he will be hired now that she has revealed the identity of her abuser) She is matter of fact about her challenging personal history, but doesn’t really do very much mud slinging, which is kind of nice. She gives quite a bit of background what it was like growing up in Hollywood, working on a very successful television series, and a bit of interesting background on some of her co-stars and other Hollywood luminaries, including Rob Lowe (ex-boyfriend of good friend Melissa Gilbert) and Michael Landon. The book is very respectful of all the people she discusses, not giving away personal information about others, but still has interesting stories and her impressions of her strange childhood.
The role is Arngrim’s signature, and she has not really had much acting success since, although she has a thriving stand-up career and is an avid advocate of AIDS and child sexual abuse charities. Truthfully, this book shows how likeable and self-aware Arngrim is, very witty, compassionate and charming. This book is very funny, honest, heartbreaking and enormously entertaining.